(BEDFORD) – The public got the opportunity to speak for or against three plans laid out by the North Lawrence Community Schools Visionary Committee Thursday night at the BNL Performing Arts Center.
Rick Roll, a consultant from ESolve Solutions Inc., opened the meeting describing the process of the Visionary Committee and how things will be handled during the public input session.
Ty Mungle then guided the public through some of the data and the current situation the North Lawrence School Corporation is in.
He said that the Visionary Committee’s purpose was “to best prepare our students; we must support our dedicated employees in maintaining an effective student to teacher ratio. We will increase support for right-sizing our school corporation in an expedited manner. This will address that five out of ten elementary schools operate in deficit spending while acknowledging the size of the school district and population trends, and state funding formula. Our vision is to support a community that is sustainable, healthy and viable.”
The strategies of the Visionary Committee include the following:
- Increase compensation for staff
- Provide opportunities for training and collaboration
- Close or consolidate schools to lower operating costs
- Keep class sizes small
- Connect industry with school
- Provide public information on the current status of NLCS
- Increase transparency and communication
- Provide equal opportunities to all students
The North Lawrence Community Schools development includes the following:
- Director of Personnel
- Director of Curriculum
- Director of Pathways
- Director of Business Services
- Director of Transportation
- Director of Food Services
- Director of Facilities
- Director of Communications
- Outside Consultants
These individuals all worked to provide data and information to the Visionary Committee to make some informed recommendations. In the Spring of 2019, the corporation started looking at the issues that were affecting every aspect of the corporation from compensation to the costs of each school.
The committee released three options last week. They are:
Plan 1: Leave things as they are and do nothing. This involves leaving the three middles schools, 10 elementary schools, one high school and one career center. This will cause the state to take over because of the school corporation’s deficit spending
Plan 2: Reduce the district to three larger K-6 elementary schools: Parkview Primary/Intermediate, Dollens in Oolitic and Shawswick. Consolidate seventh- and eighth-graders at Bedford, Shawswick and Oolitic middle schools into one middle school – Bedford Middle School.
Plan 3: Same middle school consolidation as Plan 2. Elementary schools for grades K-6 would include Parkview Primary/Intermediate, Dollens, Shawswick, and Lincoln.
From September to November, the committee has met in a six-step process to make a final recommendation to the school board. The Visionary Committee is now in step five of that process. Following Thursday’s public input session they will go back and review the public’s concerns.
The Committee developed plans that leveraged strengths and addressed weaknesses, and incorporated strategies from the Visionary Committee. The committee reviewed the plans, shared concerns, and recommended that it go to the community.
In proposed Plans 2 and 3 each school will have STEM programming, Project Lead the Way (transformative learning experiences for PreK-12 students and teachers), equal access to opportunities and more funding available for programs.
Each school in Plans 2 and 3 will have a principal, assistant principal, nurse, reading specialists, instructional coach, counselor/social worker, school psychologist, behavior specialist, art teacher, music teacher, and physical education teacher.
The current schools have one principal, no assistant principal, no reading specialist, no instructional coach, counselors, psychologists, behavior specialists, art teachers, music teachers, and physical education teachers (the art, music and physical education teachers travel among the schools).
Currently, the longest bus ride is 1 hour and 20 minutes. Under Plan 2 and 3 elementary bus rides will be under one hour. Students will ride directly to their elementary school under Plan 2 and 3, with a single transfer for middle and high school students.
There will be 10 fewer bus routes under Plan 2 and 3, with a savings of $45,000 per route. This will give the school corporation a savings of $450,000 savings per year.
If Plans 2 and 3 are implements and the schools are closed a committee will be formed to determine the use or sale of the empty buildings. The School Corporation will prioritize the addition of an early learning center and a new home for the gateway academy. There is no lien on any proposed unused building.
Following the presentation of Superindent Ty Mungle the public got their turn to voice their support for one of the three plans. Approximately 67 people spoke during the comment period mostly supporting the status quo saying the process is moving too fast for a change this large. There were approximately six people who spoke in favor of Plan 2, and around four people who spoke in favor of Plan 3.
The plans where to limit those speaking to one minute: however, after one person went over their time, the public started yielding their time to the speaker. Dr. Ty Mungle just allowed those speaking to go over the allotted time. Some of the speakers also spoke more than once to get their point across.
“My name is Joanna Cobb. As a school counselor at Bedford Middle School, it’s my job to advocate for all students. I am here to speak on behalf of them. While I am not opposed to necessary change, I am opposed to hastily implemented plans. I urge this administration to amend the proposals by creating a plan to take place in phases over time. Doing so allows this ambitious project and its student beneficiaries to receive the attention they deserve. As it stands, this project has the feel of firing before we aim, especially with misinformation about building capacity. I won’t bore you with the math tonight, but I have submitted ( or will submit) in writing a numerical analysis showing that Bedford Middle School currently operates for beyond the reported 50 to 60 percent capacity. Let’s take time to do it right. I would rather this project be completed as well as possible than quickly as possible. A less aggressive timeline is crucial to meet all needs carefully. Taking the time to do it right is in the best interests of our kids.”
From 1981 to 2017 there were four studies by the school corporation that recommended the closing of some schools. Bill Spreen, of Williams, was a part of the 1997 Commission that recommended the closing Fayetteville School.
“Do I have all the answers? No. There need to be some changes. And we need to support our elected officials. They have an impossible task. But, our children hear what we say, around the supper table. They (the school board) are a part of us, we elected them. So when they make that decision, if we support that decision these kids will have a smooth transition.”
The North Lawrence Community Schools Corporation Communications Director Andrew Clampitt issued a statement following the public input session
“Thank you, to all who attended the public input session and viewed the live feed on Facebook. As a reminder, the feedback form on our website is still available at www.nlcs.k12.in.us/vision.”